Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 6 Review: Rogue

Spoilers

When the Doctor and Ruby traveled back to 1813, they risked changing time, but it seemed that time changed them instead.

Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 6 combined the new season’s traditional campiness with a bona fide creepy alien story and new heartbreak for the Doctor after he’s already lost so much.

The long-awaited Jonathan Groff guest spot didn’t disappoint, though the story was ironically similar to one that aired on Torchwood in 2005.

Historical Stories Can Be Problematic on Doctor Who

Historical stories were originally part of the Doctor Who landscape because the series was intended to educate British schoolchildren. These early stories were historically accurate, and the Doctor was careful never to change anything.

However, in modern Who episodes, visiting history risks accidentally altering things that should not be altered.

This is especially true this season, where the word “gravity” was changed to “mavity” when Isaac Newton misheard Donna, and Ruby almost turned into a butterfly-like alien when she stepped on one.

Related: Doctor Who Casts Neil Patrick Harris as ‘The Greatest Enemy the Doctor Has Ever Faced’

I was especially concerned because Ruby kept interjecting modern slang and attitudes into her conversations. If Emily hadn’t turned out to be a shapeshifter, there’s no telling what effect Ruby’s slips of the tongue might have had.

That brings up another question that wasn’t addressed: how did a bunch of upper-class Brits encountering the shapeshifters change history? By the end of the hour, was anyone themselves, or were they all aliens in disguise?

If anyone survived, their memory of the Doctor and Rogue dancing and Rogue proposing might have impacted history, as that type of behavior was considered scandalous then.

These concerns were unimportant to the story at hand, so they weren’t addressed, though you never know when something will come up in a later episode.

The Doctor’s Heartbreaking Storyline Was Similar to One on Torchwood

It sucked, though it was predictable, that after the Doctor and Rogue faked a split for the sake of drama, circumstances pushed them apart for real.

Otherwise, Rogue would have traveled in the TARDIS, and Ruby would have become a third wheel, which wouldn’t have worked.

It was also eerily reminiscent of the “Captain Jack Harkness” episode of Torchwood.

In that episode, Captain Jack met the military commander whose name he had stolen. Jack knew his namesake would die the next day, yet he was attracted to him. The two danced and kissed openly—something unheard of in the 1940s US—before Jack left, and his namesake went on to his death.

Related: Has Doctor Who Set Up a Possible Torchwood Return?

The similarity is doubly ironic because the Duchess was played by Torchwood veteran Indira Varma, who played the evil Suzie Costello on several occasions on that show.

Additionally, Jonathan Groff’s Rogue was so similar to Captain Jack in personality, down to the American accent and desire to be a maverick, that I wondered if these scenes were originally written for Jack and changed at the last minute because of the controversy surrounding John Barrowman.

The Doctor Was Put Through the Wringer During This Episode’s Ending

The Doctor’s latest adventure landed him on an emotional roller coaster, starting with his belief that Ruby was dead and ending with almost losing her before Rogue sacrificed himself instead.

The Doctor’s companions get themselves in and out of danger so often that the aliens threatening Ruby could have become a tired TV trope, but it was surprisingly effective.

The idea of an alien killing Ruby so they could use her body as a costume was creepy, and the dead bodies all over the castle grounds didn’t help matters any.

The Doctor has been through so much, and if he really lost Ruby, he might need another break like the 14th Doctor took after bigeneration. Plus, he wouldn’t be able to face Carla if he let Ruby die, even if this incident wasn’t his fault.

I knew Ncuti Gatwa was equally capable of serious drama and comedy because he did both on Sex Education, but his reaction to thinking Ruby was dead proved it to anyone who doubted it.

Although part of his angst was guilt over breaking his promise to Carla, the Doctor loves Ruby (platonically), and that came through loudly and clearly through his reaction to her “death.”

Rogue and the Doctor’s final scene was as beautiful as it was powerful. Rogue kissed the Doctor before making the ultimate sacrifice. I’m not sure how he knocked Ruby out of the trap and took her place, but it worked.

Related: With Representation Declining Industry-Wide, Is TV Failing Its LGBTQ+ Viewers?

The Doctor’s Love Story Made Sense

The Doctor was originally asexual. He was interested in people for who they were and had no desire to be romantic with anyone (although there were some debatable moments in the earliest years).

In recent years, he’s been attracted to several of his companions, and when Jodie Whittaker played the title role, some fans hoped she would hook up with Yaz, one of her companions.

All of this suggests that the Doctor has historically been attracted to women. However, that doesn’t mean his attraction to men this season changes anything. 

The Doctor is a multi-gendered being who has often guarded their hearts. When you’re thousands of years old and will outlive any lover by centuries, you’ll be guarded against intimacy. The loss hurts too much.

That’s doubly true now when the Doctor has lost his entire people and a few previous companions, and this latest loss now that Rogue has disappeared will make him even more guarded.

As far as his sexuality goes, it hasn’t been established that he’s one thing or the other, and someone who has exclusively acted on feelings for women before could still be attracted to other genders, too.

That’s a great message to send during LGBT Pride Month. I wish the Doctor and Rogue had had a longer, satisfying LGBTQ+ moment, but that one kiss would have to do.

Stray Thoughts

  • Was anyone else disappointed that Ruby’s new friend turned out to be an alien? I liked their friendship and how Ruby encouraged Emily to have a more expansive view of her place in the world. That might have caused a time paradox, though, so maybe it was for the best that Emily wasn’t herself.
  • I wondered how the events of Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 5 affected the Doctor and Ruby. I know he likes to move on to the next adventure, but as Ruby pointed out at the end of the hour, it’s not as easy for him as he makes it seem.
  • Susan Twist had her briefest appearance yet and no lines since she was just a portrait, but the big reveal is coming as the season starts to wrap up.
  • There was something ironic about Ruby watching Emily and Barton as if it were an episode of Bridgerton when the aliens wanted to take over people’s bodies so that they could pretend they were part of a dramatic Regency piece.

Your turn, Doctor Who fanatics! What did you think of this episode?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know.

Doctor Who Season 1 airs on Disney+. New episodes drop on Fridays at 7/6c.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on X.

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